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I got a message with a series of points criticizing Americans for blaming companies and institutions rather than themselves. I partly agree with the underlying message that people should take charge and solve problems, rather than just cast blame on others. However, the points go too far--they whitewash companies and institutions that really did something wrong.

Let's see if I understand how America works lately . . .

If a woman burns her thighs on the hot coffee she was holding in her lap while driving, she blames the restaurant.

Ordinarily, when you spill coffee on yourself, it hurts but doesn't really injure you. MacDonalds was serving coffee too hot, and as a result, a woman who spilled her coffee was seriously burned. It turns out MacDonalds had been warned about this before--they knew they were doing something dangerous. That's why she won that lawsuit.

If your teen-age son kills himself, you blame the rock 'n' roll music or musician he liked.

Actually, we don't. A few people tried to blame the musicians, but they did not win those cases.

If you smoke three packs a day for 40 years and die of lung cancer, your family blames the tobacco company.

If the tobacco company got you addicted when you were a child, because they lied and said smoking was safe when they already knew it was dangerous, it has a lot to answer for.

If your daughter gets pregnant by the football captain you blame the school for poor sex education.

A responsible teacher would have taught her effective birth control techniques as well as pleasurable sex techniques.

If your neighbor crashes into a tree while driving home drunk, you blame the bartender.

Bartenders are not supposed to serve alcohol to people who are intoxicated, but they face the temptation to do so anyway in order to sell more booze.

If your cousin gets AIDS because the needle he used to shoot up with heroin was dirty, you blame the government for not providing clean ones.

Actually other people tried to provide clean needles, specifically to prevent the spread of AIDS, and we blame the government for stopping them.

If your grandchildren are brats without manners, you blame television.

I suspect the real culprit is the economic system that is set up so that parents can't spend much time with their children--so they use TV to keep the kids distracted. However, some present evidence that the introduction of TV in a society has an effect on the way children generally behave.

If your friend is shot by a deranged madman, you blame the gun manufacturer.

This goes too far, but there is a core of good sense in it. Nowadays there are things gun maufacturers can do to make it hard for anyone other than the owner to use the gun.

And if a crazed person breaks into the cockpit and tries to kill the pilots at 35,000 feet, and the passengers kill him instead, the mother of the deceased blames the airline.

This, if it happened, is the only one I won't try to defend.

I must have lived too long to understand the world as it is. So if I die while my old, wrinkled ^*%#$* is parked in front of this computer, I want you to blame Bill Gates, OK?

You should switch to GNU/Linux; then instead of blaming Bill Gates, you can blame me. If you are using Windows, you have only yourself to blame.